Orange County commissioners this week approved a resolution to join the Gulf Coast Community Protection and Recovery District, a corporation of six counties that will work to fund a study for a hurricane protection system.

County Judge Carl Thibodeaux said the move would not jeopardize Orange County’s own attempt to produce a study through a contracted engineering firm and the Orange County Economic Development Corp. 

Joining the district will run parallel to those attempts and cost nothing to the county, he said.

The proposed system would extend from Brazoria County to the Sabine River. Other members of the district are the counties of Brazoria, Chambers, Galveston, Jefferson and Harris, with county judges and commissioners attending meetings and acting as liaison.
“This strengthens our position by being the most far eastern county in the Gulf Coast area,” Thibodeaux said. 

One concern of Harris County, Thibodeaux said, is the Ike Dike project, which Galveston County is promoting. 

The proposal by a Texas A&M at Galveston professor would extend the existing seawall by more than 50 to 100 miles and add floodgates that would close before an approaching hurricane.
Harris officials are afraid the Ike Dike might push water up through the Houston ship channel. Harris is represented on the district by former Harris County Judge Robert Eckels.

“Houston has such as large population that when money is divvied up, it is divvied up per capita, and you know where [Orange County] stands,” Thibodeaux said. “So by being a member of this corporation we’re going to get the same amount of votes as Harris County does.”

Thibodeaux said he doesn’t expect things to “move very fast.”
“The environmental study alone could take two to three years,” he said.

Courthouse basement repairs to begin?

The Orange County Courthouse basement is in need of repairs associated with Ike, with a price tag of about $1 million. Emergency Management Coordinator Jeff Kelley, who has had trouble getting response from FEMA on the county’s $800,000 basement mitigation claim, said he may finally clear weeks of red tape and get a signed proposal from FEMA officials by Friday. 

“There are only two individuals left in the state doing mitigation claims for the Gulf Coast,” Kelley said. “And as they write off the grants they have to review every jurisdiction that has declared a claim.”

In other business this week, commissioners:

• Voted to go out for proposals and estimates for restoration of Ike-damaged courthouse records. District Clerk Vickie Edgerly and Records Management Director Regina Cameron spoke to commissioners. Precinct 4 Commissioner Beamon Minton said he’d heard about some possible Community Block Development Grants, which Thibodeaux said he would welcome. “Whether we get a grant or not, it’s got to be done,” he said.

• Approved to order 100 hand sanitizer bottles and wall-holders to be placed around county properties. The purchasing department will make the orders at a cost of about $1,000. Some bottles will be placed in public areas for residents to use upon entering or exiting a building.

• Approved to lower the speed limit on Timberlake Drive to 20 mph, based on a petition signed by residents there. County Engineer Les Anderson said he’d driven the road and told commissioners, “It’s safe to say it’s pretty narrow.”